Topics: Appointment as Minister for Sport and Health
Thanks very much to Sue Williams, the CEO of Peninsula Health and Chris Crewther, the Member for Dunkley who fought so hard for the funding to expand MRI services here with $6 million over the next four years to help local residents access better services.
Health touches every Australian. Every Australian parent, whether it’s of a young child, whether it’s of somebody who is older, every Australian young person, person in their middle age or senior simply wants to know that they can access doctors and nurses and simply wants to know that they can get the medicines that they need when they need it. That’s what health is about.
We are here in Frankston Hospital and I am very privileged to be Australia's new health minister. I am especially pleased to be here, of all places, today.
My mother was a nurse and she worked here at Frankston Hospital. My wife is a nurse, my father met my mother here at Frankston Hospital and he spent his last weeks in the care of the magnificent staff here at Frankston Hospital.
Like every Australian, I have been privileged all my life to know and to meet and to be taken care of by the magnificent dedicated, professionals of our Australian health system.
The doctors, the nurses, the allied health care professionals, the researchers. These are the people that actually represent health in Australia.
The first thing I want to do is to acknowledge the role of our health care workers. Our professionals and also our volunteers whom we met here today at Peninsula Health.
They all give a fabulous contribution. We have some of the best health care professionals in the world. We have almost undoubtedly the best volunteer system in the world.
To acknowledge their work is fundamental and it is of deep personal importance. This is a role about which I am genuinely passionate because it is about my own family, it is about everybody's family and it is about my family's origins.
I also want to acknowledge, as part of that, the role of magnificent organisations, such as the AMA.
Such as our private health insurers who allow people to have choice. Our health care policy professionals and I have had many discussions already today with people such as Michael Gannon.
I have had discussions with people from private health insurance, our pharmacists, the head of the Pharmacy Guild does have a pharmacy in my electorate, so we have a long standing relationship.
There are extraordinary Australians involved in this sector. Then let me look forward to the vision.
My vision and our vision is very simple. That is to help give Australia the best health care system in the world.
To help give Australia the best health care system in the world. We are already outstanding. But we can be even better and that vision involves working with our medical researchers to find cures as we have seen with Gardasil and Venetoclax and different strains of cancer.
We can in our lives cure things which could never have been treated and the work we have seen here today Sue, in terms of the coronary care, is outstanding, that is absolutely the sort of breakthrough research applied by brilliant clinicians that makes a difference, that saves peoples' lives.
I want to see us as the best health care system in the world and the best researchers in the world. In my previous role, I have seen how our innovation and science come together with our medical system to change peoples' lives, to help provide cures.
Whether it is in areas such as cancer or diabetes. So many different other health areas. Stroke prevention, these are critical.
Then I want to go forward to looking at the system and within the system itself, let me start by making a statement.
Medicare is the fundamental underpinning of Australia's health system. I have and we have a rock solid commitment to the future of Medicare.
It is simply indispensable and fundamental to our health care system. It is a deep personal passion and an absolute personal commitment and an absolute commitment of the Prime Minister and the Turnbull Government.
I also want to focus on mental health. This is something which, like many families, has touched my family.
I want mental health to be a critical part of my time in this role. I also want indigenous health to be a critical part of my time in this role.
Today, we celebrate the appointment of Ken Wyatt as not just the Minister for Aged Care and Indigenous Health, but the first indigenous Australian to be sworn in as a minister in the history of Australia.
That is a grand and important moment for Indigenous Australia and it is a grand and important moment for all Australians and something to celebrate and of which we should all be proud.
Finally, I want to note, in terms of sport. I am a sports fan and I am a sports dad.
What I want to do with sport is to have as many young Australians, as many Australians through their adult lives participate in sport.
I want to be the minister for participation in sport and yes, we have got to help make sure that our elite sports inspire young Australians to participate, bring us together and provide a way of bridging gaps across communities but above all else, I want to bring young Australians and those from disadvantaged backgrounds into a culture where they have sport, whatever is appropriate to them, as a fundamental opportunity.
I’d be happy to take any questions.
Congratulations on your appointment. Are you open to repealing the Medicare freeze?
You can understand I haven't been sworn in yet. I wanted to set the vision today to talk with the representatives of so many sectors within the health space and as I say I have already had many calls so far.
I will continue to do that over the coming days and to take additional briefings and then once the swearing in as been completed, I will have more to say at that stage about particular policy directions but it is the vision of being the best health care in the world for Australians which I really want to set out today.
Part of the calls that you did take today, did anyone bring up the Medicare freeze and the need to get rid of it?
There will be a range of discussions and many people will raise many different things. I am setting out to listen and to hear, not just to listen but to hear and to learn over the coming days and weeks and progressively we will set out more policy directions but the broad vision is of the best health care system in the world.
I will work with doctors. I will work with nurses. I believe deeply in both professions. All our health care workers across different areas, especially our researchers as well.
I do want to reserve a special thanks to the nurses and to the GPs. One of the things that Michael Gannon said is he feels GPs may have been undervalued in Australia. I want to re-establish that value, their role, their importance, their trust in the community.
When did the Prime Minister inform you about your appointment?
These things are always finally confirmed later on in the process. There have been…
Did you learn about your appointment through the Prime Minister or through media reports?
I learned about my appointment through the Prime Minister.
Are you disappointed to see less women in cabinet now?
Look, there is always a balance. We have outstanding women. Remember this, we have Julie Bishop there as Australia's first female Foreign Minister.
There as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party. We have outstanding people but the point about diversity today is that Ken Wyatt has just been appointed as our first ever indigenous minister and that is a signature moment for Australia.
Long overdue. But finally realised. He will be outstanding, as is Dave Gillespie. I have to say David Gillespie, when I was ill in Canberra just a couple of months ago, made a home visit to me. He gets ten out of ten for his bedside manner.
You are replacing a minister who resigned over an expenses scandal. There are reports you spent taxpayer money on family holidays. Can you talk to that?
That is not a correct assessment of it. My role has always been to work as hard as I can and to visit communities and in the case of South-East Queensland, I was always working on things such as the biosphere, working on water quality, visiting sewerage treatment plants such as Luggage Point, Maroochy and others, working with environment groups, working with councils, working on so many different issues.
My approach has been to work as hard as I can and always be there for work and that is what has been the case and now it is about working even harder.
Are you able to give a performance assessment on your predecessors time in this role?
I have immense respect for both my predecessors, Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley. Each has made significant advances. It is a difficult and challenging area for the country because there is always more to be done.
Our task is get to be the best in the world whilst at the same time ensuring that we get the ultimate value for money and this is where the medium research comes in.
New drugs such as Venetoclax that I mentioned and Gardasil, will take real pressure off the health system and the off the health budget so as we can do more, even more.
Every year of course the health budget is going up and every year the Medicare budget is going up.
Every year the Medicare budget is increasing under the Turnbull Government and the broader health budget so I believe the predecessors have made very important steps but now it’s about building on that and taking it to that level.
How would you describe Australia's health system? Do you think it is a world class system?
I think it is. People who come from elsewhere look at it and in many cases they wonder about how we achieve it but I think the answer is the medical staff.
We are blessed with the most extraordinary and outstanding GPs and specialised doctors, our surgeons and our physicians, our researchers, I am biased towards nurses, as the son of a nurse and as the husband of a nurse, I am biased to the nurses and our volunteers and our allied health workers. But I do, again, want to repeat that for GPs I want to be their Health Minister.
Thank you very much.